Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Electronic Commerce "Protection" Act

Updated (Monday a.m.) below.

So, tomorrow there is a significant Commons committee meeting dealing with Bill C-27, the Electronic Commerce Protection Act. I have begun following this now as both the Cynic site and Pogge have begun writing about it, drawing attention to Michael Geist's writings regarding this legislation. I have found myself unable to disagree with any of what they're writing. Except maybe some minor vilification of Liberals on this given that everyone is in agreement that it's all the parties who are at fault for this legislation coming forth, legislation that is not exactly going to protect consumer's rights. I'm not gong to reinvent the wheel here but will point out some excerpts below on what the legislation would mean and why it should be reconsidered. The substance of the bill in and of itself is worthy of opposition. I will be writing to the members of the Committee tonight as well.

Secondly, this is purely political reasoning, but nevertheless, that's part of any party's legislative considerations. This bill seems to me an opportunity for Liberals to distinguish themselves and make a play for part of a new voting coalition, call it the technology generation if you will. Which is not the stereotypical 25 year olds sitting at computers in hoodies. It's an issue that appeals to all of us now. So call it something else if you prefer, carve out a niche on technology, new economy issues. But it would appeal to youth voters. Scott Reid has been writing about this strategy since the October election last year and it's something the Conservatives are doing well in this era of a splintered electorate. Here he was last October:
* Voter Coalition - we need to scrutinize where we lost votes and, more importantly, how to quickly recoup the most "gettable" of those who have swung away from us. Our multicultural, Jewish and suburban supporters must be a particular focus for outreach and attention. In the past, too much has been taken for granted. From now on, we must fight for those voters. Let's start now.
And more recently:
Mr. Reid said the party needs to figure out a strategy to "identify a coalition of voters that allows it a victory."

"You need to literally think about what is your collection of voters," he said. "How many women do you need? How many Ontarians do you need? How many Quebecers do you need? Not just seats, but what is your voting coalition? How are you going to build that and what is your target audience in terms of appeal."
Why not consider breaking from the crowd and build on issues like this? Can't hurt to have street cred here, appeal to youth. I don't know what the political calculations are in their entirety on this bill, but would throw that idea out there. And I don't know if it's too late, this bill has snuck up on us.

In terms of the problems with the bill...this is supposed to be an anti-spam bill, yet there's an effort underway to dilute that very purpose:
The Canadian Marketing Association is lobbying MPs to change an anti-spam bill so that consumers have to opt out of receiving commercial email messages, rather than opting in to get them.
Dan McTeague is not on the committee but he seems to get it, perhaps he could convey this to his fellow members:
McTeague, who introduced his own anti-spam bill in 2002 but did not get it passed, said he had not seen the latest proposed amendments but added that the opt-in clause was vital.

"It's a critical clause because without it, what's the point of having the legislation?"
Secondly, there are the concerns about the bill enabling the surreptitious use of DRM ("Digital Rights Management") software on user's computers.
..the legislation as originally drafted would prevent private companies from installing Digital Rights Management software on your computer without your knowledge and from subsequently accessing your computer to retrieve information from you without your permission. The software and entertainment industries want to block the implementation of those protections and our elected representatives are going to accommodate them by proposing amendments that would render those protections useless. (emphasis added)
A more thorough critique of the DRM aspect can be found here, at Michael Geist's site. How exactly did an anti-spam bill morph into including such overreaching provisions? Perhaps an answer for tomorrow would be to excise these provisions and table them for future copyright legislation discussions.

As it's been said, this is about privacy and security, it's not so much about partisanship. But I do hope the Liberals might reconsider their plans for tomorrow. If you are so inclined, send along your emails to all the committee members, or phone, or both. Email information here.

Updated (Monday a.m.): Here's an issue for the "technology generation" that the Liberals have it right on, net neutrality, and that would seem to contradict the support of the above bill.